An Interview With Ben Truman of Black Mesa (Denver Comic Con 2016)

Written by Neil Greenaway

At Denver Comic Con 2016 I had the chance to sit down and talk with Benjamin Truman of Black Mesa about his take on programming and publishing indie comics. This interview originally ran on Bleeding Cool on 6/25/2016, and you can read their version of it here.

 Ben Truman behind his table at Denver Comic Con 2016.

Ben Truman behind his table at Denver Comic Con 2016.

I had the chance to talk to Ben Truman (son of Tim Truman) on Father’s Day at Denver Comic Con 2016 about his Trumanthology, his work for the ominous sounding Black Mesa remaking Half-Life, and working to bring back one of his dad’s creations with Scout: Marauder.

Neil Greenaway: It is Father’s Day at Denver Comic Con 2016 and we are talking to Ben Truman. So for those that might not know, what have you been working on lately?

Ben Truman: The thing that I have been doing most recently is Scout: Marauder. The next chapter in the Scout series that my dad came up with. And we’ve been working on this, we have been rolling with this idea for the last year or two and trying to get it off the ground. In terms of comic work, we just finished a Kickstarter project, New Nebula. And I just did a Kickstarter of my own stuff, a collection of my independently published short stories that I’m calling Trumanthology. I made my goal right at the beginning of June or the end of May so that will be coming out pretty soon as well.

NG: Is the Trumanthology Kickstarter still going?

BT: No that ended right at the beginning of June 2016 I believe.

NG: How did you get involved with the New Nebula book?

BT: My friend, well a friend of my wife’s at the time, they all met at the illustration program at the University of Arizona. So this is just a book put together by a bunch of graduates from the school as kind of a way to keep in touch, and to get some published credits under their belt. I just helped edit that, put it together, did some of the lettering on one of the stories, wrote one of them, and just tried to learn the whole process of how to put a book together. I have been part of anthologies before but I never have had the experience of making a book, so I wanted to do that before I got into my own Kickstarter, Trumanthology.

 Trumanthology by Ben Truman.

Trumanthology by Ben Truman.

NG: Going back to the Scout: Marauder for a moment, is that going to be in comic book or graphic novel form?

BT: We’re not sure how to do it yet, because we are really intrigued by all these new avenues of publishing. Like making a Patreon or a Kickstarter, but we’re still also interested in trying to possibly shop it around to some of the other companies that specialize in independent work. So maybe like Dark Horse or Image or something like that, trying to keep our options open on that one. We have to make it first though (laughs).

NG: How far into that are you guys?

BT: We have the first arc all plotted out; we know what we want to do with it, we are just trying to find the time to get everything together. I am very distracted, there’s so much going on.

NG: How has the convention been treating you? Saturday was slammed.

BT: Yes! This has been great. I have had a lot of fun and I got to do a lot of panels and I got to talk a lot about my video game work, which I was really happy to have here. In my life outside of comic books I am a teacher at a charter school in Tucson, AZ called City High School where I teach a video game design program and an after school program based on game design. Then my other job is just working as a story lead/narrative director on the game Black Mesa, which is a re-make of Half Life. Also just kind of doing all the things you need to do in a very small video game company, so I do community stuff and handle our translations and getting more into the game design aspects of that. I wear a lot of hats over there as well.

 The Black Mesa sign at Denver Comic Con 2016.

The Black Mesa sign at Denver Comic Con 2016.

NG: All right. My wife actually walked by earlier and saw your sign and said that can’t be THE Black Mesa can it?

BT: (Laughs) It is in fact.

NG: Very awesome. Is that an official remake or is this more of a fan project?

BT: It is a fan project with the blessing of Valve. We put it out and got a lot of attention for it when we first put it out there 10 years ago. It was a fan remake officially. And Valve, they reached out and told us the only thing they wanted us to do was to remove the source from the Black Mesa title, but they told us that we could keep going because they didn’t want any licensing problems with that. Then when we eventually finished the product and we released it for free as a mod, they contacted us and said “We like what you did and we would like to offer you the chance to sell it on STEAM”. So it isn’t like an official Valve product but it does have their blessing.

NG: And is that available on STEAM now?

BT: Yes it’s been available since May I believe.

 Ben Truman's comics at Denver Comic Con 2016.

Ben Truman's comics at Denver Comic Con 2016.

NG: All right. Wow, it sounds like you are working on a lot of different projects. Are there any other irons in the fire right now? Is there anything else that you are working on?

BT: Yeah, I am just trying to write. I am trying to further my game design career, still trying to learn a lot of new ways to make games and just try to get a handle on all the new software that is out there. But really just trying to get out some of my own books like that Trumanthology, trying to make a name for myself and not always working with my dad on projects. Trying to branch out and do some major projects on my own and just keep it moving forward, keep the ball going and seeing where it goes.

NG: Now just to touch on him briefly since you are tabling here with your dad, is it interesting going around the country working with him?

BT: Oh yeah. We haven’t done that many cons together just because I am in Arizona and he is in Pennsylvania, but they flew him out to Tucson a few years ago and I went out to the east coast and did the Baltimore Con. This is the first one we have done where we both had to fly to a location to get together. It’s been so awesome, and the fact that it’s Father’s Day weekend makes it just even cooler that I had this opportunity.

NG: Are you guys going to do San Diego this year?

BT: No, I don’t think so. I don’t know. San Diego just doesn’t seem like my scene personally, it just doesn’t seem like it’s about the actual paper comic medium, so personally, I don’t feel like I have any business being there at this point.

 Ben Truman at Denver Comic Con 2016 (1).

Ben Truman at Denver Comic Con 2016 (1).

NG: I am hearing that a lot these days. It seems to be more if a Hollywood affair.

BT: Yeah you know, and it’s got video games and stuff like that but it’s just not my area of focus.

NG: There was a time when it was nerd Mecca but I would have to say with all of the local cons springing up, especially with ones of this size here in Denver and Phoenix has a fine Comic Con, I think it probably removes some of the relevance of San Diego.

BT: Right. That was the major one and now every city has their own Comic Con going, so you don’t have to make the big hike down to San Diego to meet people who make comics any more.

NG: All right, I think that about wraps it up for us but as a closing question, if people wanted to see more of your work or if they wanted to find you online, where would they go?

BT: Go to www.bentruman.com or you can find me on Twitter @BenjaminTurman.

 Ben Truman at Denver Comic Con 2016 (2).

Ben Truman at Denver Comic Con 2016 (2).